The need to feel justified is one of the strongest, most intoxicating and uniquely human conditions. It’s amazing how far we will go to get that fix, how hard we will work to prove we were right about something or someone. How hard do you defend your version of what happened in a “he said, she said” argument? When you send an email and the other person doesn’t remember getting it, how much energy do you spend trying to prove that you sent it and that they are in the wrong?
Optimism is not just seeing the glass as half full. It’s about doing what it takes to fill it up.
Optimism is not wishful thinking. Not even a hopeful attitude. Optimism is the discipline of envisioning and pursuing possibility, against the odds. Optimistic people are this way because they work at it. They don’t just see the glass as half full, they push through to keep filling it so that potential turns into reality. Optimism takes perseverance, grit, and belief in the power of a vision and of the people pursuing that vision. Optimism doesn’t give up when the going gets tough. Optimism never quits looking for opportunity, potential, the possibility everyone else missed, the faint light at the end of the tunnel.
Jon Gordon, an ambassador of positivity, wrote this about optimism.
In 2010 Ben Zimmer published an article in the New York Times called “Optics”, where he described the phenomenon where politicians fret about the public perception of a decision more than the substance of the decision itself. Of course, elected officials have worried about outward appearances since time immemorial, but optics puts a new spin on things, giving a scientific-sounding gloss to P.R. and image-making.
I watch a lot of cable news. I admit, I’m a glutton for punishment. Watching the anchors, the interviews, and the spin factory is a study in personality and drama. It’s also a study in Optics – perception management.
Long before Ben Zimmer and the New York Times, a psychiatrist named Taibi Kahler was researching how human personality influences how we perceive the world around us and filter our experiences. Kahler discovered six distinct perceptual filters that color our optics. He associated these filters with a “currency” of communication – the legal tender that influences how people conduct transactions and influence each other. It’s how they listen and engage with, or tune out and turn against, the message and the messenger. Which currency is your strongest optical lens?
If it’s logical, I’m in. I listen to facts and I’ll fact-check everything. I will listen to you if you can back it up with data. I’ll tune you out if you aren’t rational. It’s not called flip-flopping, it’s called “adjusting based on the information.”
If it connects with my beliefs, I’m in. You had me at “loyalty and patriotism.” If it seems inconsistent, willy nilly, or devoid of strong convictions, I’m out. You lost me at “I changed my mind because of new information.”
If what your saying resonates with my sense of community, family, and care for others, I’ll listen. If you don’t seem to care about the people-impact, I assume you are mean and uncaring. I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.
If it’s clever, funny or grabs my attention, I’m in. If it’s bland or infected with research and moral mumbo-jumbo, I’m outa here. Bright shiny objects, here I come!
Show me you can be reflective and open-minded and I’ll consider your perspective. If you push me to accept simplified black and white interpretations, I’ll check out because it shows me you don’t have the imagination to solve the big, messy problems.
Wow me. Sell me. But don’t manipulate me. If you show me a way to be part of something amazing, I’ll be your agent! If you try to corner me, play me, or take advantage of my insecurities, I’ll be your worst enemy. I might even call Omorosa.
Optics matter more than reality. Often it’s not what you say, but how you say it that makes all the difference. Who are you talking to, and how are they experiencing your message? We have data on what percentage of the population uses each perceptual filter. Happy to share; just give us a call.
Join a Next Element PCM seminar to learn how to recognize you own optical illusions and improve your vision for what’s going on around you. Learn how the strategies used by a past president, a top military general, a Pixar Studios movie director, and a NASA chief psychiatrist can transform how you communicate.
If you’ve been an athlete, I bet you remember your favorite coach. Great coaches help inspire us to strive for our best, feel proud of the goals we’ve accomplished, and work together as a team. Coaching isn’t just reserved for the sports field. These days it’s getting more and more popular for professionals to engage executive or life coaches to help them make forward progress in their lives. Most people I’ve talked to have found coaching to be quite beneficial.
What makes a good coach?
Last week a friend asked me for some advice about publishing a blog. He wants to start his own and had some questions about my journey. Among other things, I shared with him the importance of good titles that capture people’s attention and gets to the heart of the issue. To illustrate, I invited him to review the last ten posts I had published on my blog. As I scrolled through my blog with him, I was shocked at what I saw.
“Now I don’t know but I been told
It’s hard to run with the weight of gold
Other hand I have heard it said
It’s just as hard with the weight of lead.”
-Grateful Dead, New Speedway Boogie
How many tools are in your tool belt?
Why did you get them in the first place?
What problem were you trying to solve at the time?
How well do you use them today?
How many are gathering dust? Why?
Most people and organizations who become overburdened by tools have followed this path;
Storytelling is fundamentally human. Stories give meaning to our lives and make connections between people and across generations. Stories can also mislead us in ways that reduce our ability to think clearly, respond thoughtfully and seek the best obtainable truth, especially when emotions run high. In his TedX talk, Tyler Cowan, an economist, warns us to be suspicious of stories that oversimplify the messiness of our lives in exchange for media hype.
Newsweek magazine published a language analysis of US presidents done by FactBase concluding that Donald Trump speaks at a mid-fourth grade level, the lowest of all presidents analyzed, more than one grade level below the next lowest, Harry Truman. The analysis assessed the first 30,000 words each president spoke in office, and ranked them on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale and more than two dozen other common tests analyzing English-language difficulty levels. FactBase compared these findings to Trump’s own claim that he is a genius.
Fake News Alert. Language reading level has very little relationship to traditional measures of intelligence (IQ).
A few years ago I was asked to coach a manager through firing four employees in one afternoon. Going into it the manager was anxious and afraid. Four hours later, she left work completely exhausted, but with her dignity intact, and the dignity of her four ex-employees intact. A month later she met one of them in the grocery store. The ex-employee approached her, gave her a hug, and thanked her for how she conducted the firing.
Employers inevitably need to let employees go. Many employers approach this situation in a way that shows empathy and respect to the employee. But when terminations aren’t approached the right way, former employees end up bitter and hurt the company’s employer brand.
Five Common Mistakes Leaders Make when firing an employee
A toxic boss can ruin a great work environment and leave a wake of drama. You can let it take you down, or take initiative to stay out of the drama and be a positive influence.
Four signs your boss is toxic:
- Questions motives instead of asking curious questions. Toxic bosses regularly jump to conclusions and assume nefarious intentions. If they would ask curious questions instead, they’d find out that most people are doing their best and trying to do the right thing.
- Motivates with intimidation. Toxic bosses are willing to undermine dignity to get what they want. They believe they are OK and others are not-OK, which enables them to sleep at night even when they abuse their people during the day.
- Lacks awareness. Toxic bosses lack insight into their own behavior, motivations, or impact on others. They are clueless about how ineffective they are.
- Low emotional intelligence. Toxic bosses have a toxic relationship with their own emotions. They don’t know how to express them in healthy ways, and they don’t know how to deal effectively with other people’s emotions.